The Mammalwatching Podcast Turns 50: Connor Burgin from the mammal diversity database
In the latest episode of the mammalwatching podcast – the 50th so far – Charles and I talk to Connor Burgin a PhD student working on mammalian systematics at the University of New Mexico. As a young boy Connor was fascinated by Wikipedia’s list of dinosaurs. His fascination shifted to lists of present day fauna and at the age of twelve he began to create and update his own list of the world’s mammals which quickly became the state of art. His childhood project turned into the American Society of Mammalogists’ Mammal Diversity Database, which is now widely regarded as the most uptodate and authoratative list of the world’s 6500 living mammal species. Connor’s taxonomy was also used by Lynx Nature Book in their seminal Illustrated Checklist of the World’s Mammals (2020) and All the Mammals of the World (2023).
Taxonomy is as much art as science: if you laid all the world’s taxonomists end to end you still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. So Connor explains the challenges of decision-making when it comes to some of the most controversial issues to hit the mammalwatching world: when to split and lump a species and how to treat domestic animals? Plus I am very impressed with Connor’s choice of the mammal species he mosts wants to see. Great minds think alike ….
You can stream the episode here or search for “mammalwatching” wherever you get your podcasts.